A passion to help others and a sense of adventure have Jaclyn Rainey preparing to go a long way.
Try more than 4,000 miles – on a bicycle – from one end of the country to the other.
That’s the plan this summer when the 21-year-old Kent woman, a third-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Washington, joins a team of 21 other college-aged students on a trip to raise money and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF).
“I’m extremely excited about it,” Rainey said of the caravan-supported ride that begins in Baltimore, Md., on June 5 and ends in Seattle on Aug. 12. “I’m excited to be able to meet all these people, but it’s also kind of scary that I’m going to jump right into this – ride 4,000 miles together for 70 straight days.”
For the 16th year, the 4K for Cancer program is sending young adults on journeys throughout the country in an effort to inspire hope and unite communities in the fight against cancer. The UCF created the 4K for Cancer effort to support young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer.
In Rainey’s case, several of her family members have fought and lost the battle with cancer.
“I have seen a lot of pain through them and the loved ones of my friends and want to be able to help those going through this hardship,” Rainey said. “I have been involved with several cancer care programs the past few years through volunteering and fundraising and wish to continue my experience helping the cancer community.”
Rainey has especially drawn inspiration from a close aunt, Kathy Kelly, an ovarian cancer survivor, whose plight shook a then 13-year-old girl as the woman went through treatment.
“She is like a second mother to me. She’s always been there for me,” Rainey said of her aunt, who is healthy today. “That’s when I started realizing the impact cancer has, not only on the patient but the people (around them).”
At Kentwood High School, Rainey discovered the importance of philanthropy. She found the work rewarding and continued the mission at UW, where she found the time to volunteer and raise money for nonprofit organizations, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Rainey also developed a love for biking. A softball player for most all her life, Rainey hyper-extended her knee while playing and turned to cycling as a good way to rehab the injury.
She eventually got hooked on pedaling long distances and participated in the Obliteride, a fundraising bike ride that supports Fred Hutch. She joined her dad, David, a Boeing engineer an avid cyclist, on frequent trips. Biking brings together interesting people of all walks, Rainey found out.
“You meet a lot of people who have incredible stories. You just meet crazy, spontaneous people. It is almost inspiring,” she said of her travels on two wheels. “You learn a lot about yourself because there is a lot of quiet road time … and it was a real good way to bond with my dad.”
Father and daughter have covered long distances together. Summer excursions have taken them southward along the Washington and California coast lines.
They completed a two-part ride last summer, a journey that originated in Seattle and followed the scenic highways to Crescent City, Calif., before winding up in Tijuana, Mexico. In all, it stretched about 1,500 miles.
Looking to combine her volunteer work with her drive to bike, Rainey discovered UCF.
“This organization is everything I believe in. … Just perfect for me,” she said.
Rainey interviewed and won a spot on the team.
She is in the process of raising $10,000 for UCF, of which $4,500 is required prior to the start of the ride this summer.
Rainey said she is responsible for her own airfare to Baltimore and other expenses.
The ride will take the group past the Great Lake states and eventually through Montana, Idaho and Washington. The group will ride 60 of the 70 days, averaging about 75 miles each day.
Rainey is up for the challenge.
“(By) combining two things (helping others and biking) that I love, (it) shows just how much supporting the cancer community truly means to me,” she said.
To learn more and to donate to Rainey’s ride, go online.